First Day, Free Camping, and Foul Ups

Wow! When we started our trip south (back in November) we thought we’d be posting one blog and one video a week. Now it’s ten weeks later, and we’ve got so many great things to share. But for now, this blog/video is about our first day on the road! A day with a couple of dumb mistakes, and a bunch of great memories.

The scenery on the eastern shore of Maryland was so beautiful that we actually missed the turn into Cabin Creek Heritage Farm. Also, we had entered the wrong address—off by one digit is all it takes!

So, for the first but not the last time, we had to unhook our car, turn the RV around in a driveway, and backtrack to the farm.


Cabin Creek is part a club called Harvest Hosts, a group of farms, wineries, and museums that offer free overnight stays to RVers. It’s $49/year to join, after which there’s no charge to stay for one night at any member property, and there’s no limit to how many places you stay. There are usually no hookups for water/electric/sewer, but most RVs are self-contained and that’s no problem. Even though campers are not required to buy anything, it’s been a great part of our experience to sample wines, cheeses, and other produce, and buy something that we’ll enjoy down the road. Building good, unique camping memories is a primary reason for staying with Harvest Hosts—as well as no fee. Each Harvest Host experience is different.

Here are a few of the reasons we loved our one-night stay at Cabin Creek Heritage Farm:

  1. Approaching the farm

    The rural setting is gorgeous. Rolling hills and colorful woodlands are not what you’d picture just east of Washington, DC. And the rustic farmhouse, barns, farm animals, and grazing sheep create a serene setting for a peaceful overnight stay.

The warm welcome and hospitality we received when we arrived, and throughout our visit, was very special. Lori and Doug Hill own and run the farm, along with help from their three grown children when they are able. We were also greeted by guinea hens, chickens and roosters, their dog, and a curious cat or two.

  1. We learned about the sustainable farming methods that preserve the land and allow their animals freedom to graze in fields and woods and their fowl to eat grubs from the ground. They use no hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. They go as far as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to purchase the best grains possible to feed their animals. As Lori said, “If you are what you eat, then you are what your food eats, too!”

Lori is very accustomed to talking about their farm, and spent half an hour explaining their method of farming and answering our questions. Some highlights of our conversation are recorded on the video.

The most fascinating aspect was how the woodland pigs are raised, fed, and mated. They are given as natural a life as possible while being organized into age-groups to eventually become tasty meat. They don’t name the animals (except for the boar and a couple of sows, whose main jobs are mating rather than becoming meat. Nice job if you can get it!) or it would too hard to say goodbye; it is a business, after all.

3. They welcome groups throughout the year for visits to their farm—from schools, colleges, senior centers, and more—and are committed to educating others about eco-friendly farming methods.

4. They have delicious meats and produce at their farm store! Store hours are 10 am–2 pm on Saturdays, or by appointment. They raise and “process” their own chicken, and send the rest out to carefully chosen and humane processing houses. In the store you’ll find various cuts of beef, pork, and chicken, along with bacon, sausage, and fresh eggs. (Lori also gave me a half a dozen quail eggs to try. Tiny but delicious!)

That being said, the meats at Cabin Creek were so inviting that we ended up buying over a hundred dollars’ worth! Although camping was free, it has ended up being our most expensive stay! Of course we enjoyed our meats, chicken, bacon and sausage, and eggs for many meals to come and were reminded each time of our wonderful visit to Cabin Creek.

By the way, Lori offered to run an extension cord from their barn so that we could, in fact, have electricity for the night, which we graciously accepted. When we asked what time we needed to leave, we were told we could stay as long as we want. I suspect we could have even stayed another night, but as much as we hated to leave, we were eager to keep moving south, and Harvest Hosts discourages club members from overstaying our welcome.

Before we left, we were curious about their house, and Lori gave us a little tour. The original house was facing sideways, so they had it turned ninety degrees, and then moved a log cabin up from Tennessee and connected the two. We were delighted to discover a wall hanging that mentioned God and to learn that they are faithful Christians and that their passion for sustainable farming grows from their dedication to caring for God’s creation.

We loved Cabin Creek Heritage Farm and would definitely stay there again. RVing is an adventure, and this was a great way to begin our trip. Stay tuned for highlights of our journey, both good and bad, coming up soon in our blogs and vlogs. We know we are way behind, but hope you will join us as we travel and explore.

We’d love to hear your comments and questions. Please subscribe below if you’d like to get an email when our next blog or video is published.

Remember: Life’s a journey. Make every mile count!
If you happen to join Harvest Hosts, please let them know that Jeff & Kathy Wildrick sent you.

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Six Tips for Renting an RV

Whether you’re single, a couple, a family with kids, or a group of friends, renting an RV is a great way to see America (and Canada). And if you’re thinking of buying an RV, renting is the best way to get a feel for the RV life and learn which features matter most to you before you make a major purchase.

Although there’s a lot of advice about renting and vacationing in RVs on the Internet, we discovered that no one place told us everything we needed to know—especially as newbies. So, after countess hours of surfing the net to plan several rental vacations, we literally “wrote the book” on RV rentals! Here are six of our top tips from The Complete Guide to Renting an RV.

  1. Check out local and independent options.

Most of the RV rental industry is dominated by one company: Cruise America. They have the largest fleet with the most locations (130 at the moment), and their motorhomes are custom built for the rental market. The RVs have fewer frills than other companies offer, but they are solidly built and chances are you live near one of their dealers. Not bad choice by any means.

But there are other options.

Before renting, be sure to check out RoadBear and El Monte, the next two largest chains. And don’t forget to do a Google search for local RV rental companies. You might also want to check out, a broker that helps connect you with private owners who want to rent out their RVs when they aren’t using them. (Buyer beware – Private RV owners have usually have only their one RV, so if the RV breaks down on the road, you’re out of luck.  Likewise, if it is in the shop when you’ve made your reservation, you’re out of luck there too.)

(If you’re in the greater New York area, check out our friends at They’re great to work with and are a great example of how a “little guy” can often outdo the “big guys.”)

By doing a little comparison shopping, you may save money and get a nicer rental RV for your vacation.

2. Choose the smallest RV that will meet your needs.

You may be surprised to discover that it’s not as simple as: the bigger the RV, the more people it can sleep. Layout and design matter. And while a 40-foot RV will certainly have more interior living space than a smaller one, one or two slide-outs in a smaller RV can make a big difference.

Well maybe not this small!

Also keep in mind that a smaller motorhome will fit into many more RV campsites than a larger one—and expand your camping possibilities. And the smaller it is, the easier it is to maneuver and park. You might be able to find street parking (picture two spaces two together) near that restaurant you want to try or more parking options in a museum’s parking lot. In all likelihood, you won’t be towing a car on your vacation, so the ability to drive and park a smaller RV can be a game-changer.

Of course, it will cost less to rent a smaller RV than a larger one. Know your own needs, however, and rent what you think you’ll be happy in for the length of your vacation. Just remember that the outdoors will be your backyard, and you probably won’t want to hang out in your RV all day!

3. Make a video of your orientation.

When you pick up your rental RV, you should be given a thorough tour and orientation. Expect this to take up to an hour. They will show you where everything is and how everything works. It’s a lot to remember, and in the early days we sometimes didn’t take advantage of some great features simply because we forgot they were there or how to use them. This never needs to happen to you. When the orientation begins, simply take a video of the entire presentation. Then, when you can’t figure out how to work the awning, for instance, you can just pull up your video and watch it demonstrated again.

After all, you don’t want this to happen!

A bonus to taping the orientation is that you will also be documenting any preexisting damage so that you don’t have to pay for someone else’s mistakes. The rental company should have accurate records of the RV’s condition for you to sign off on. Just make sure that all preexisting damage is noted before you drive off. And remember your video recording if you encounter any problems upon return. Above all, drive safely and carefully!

4. Bring some frozen meals with you.

RV kitchens are small. And while you can cook almost anything you need to in an RV, why spend more time in the kitchen than you have to? You’re on vacation, right? We try to cook and freeze a few meals at home before we travel. Then we can just heat them up the microwave or even on a grill with no fuss and no muss.

RV refrigerators and freezers are also small. They can hold a surprising amount of food if well organized, but a cooler can come in really handy for storing your frozen meals, which can serve as ice packs for other foods or beverages until they’re thawed

5. Use satellite view.

When you go to a campground’s website, you might find some great pictures of the beautiful campsites and surroundings. It looks like you’ll be just a few steps from the beach, or nestled in the middle of nowhere. Imagine your disappointment when you find that those photos have been carefully cropped to avoid showing the highway—or the railroad tracks, or the industrial plant—only a hundred yards away. In fact, some of the website photos might be of nearby attractions instead of the campground itself. This isn’t to imply that all websites are this devious, just that you should choose wisely—and not go by the website itself.

We like to use the satellite-view feature of Google Maps to see an actual, unbiased look from above, not only of the campground but also of the surrounding area. You can see which campsites have the best—or worst—locations, and you can see whether the RVs are packed together like sardines or spread out like fish in a pond. Huh? You get the idea! You can’t always get a spacious, private campsite in the woods, but it’s better to know ahead of time than to be surprised.

(Bonus Tip: Satellite view can also help you check out gas stations to be sure they are RV friendly, find convenient parking areas near attractions you plan to visit, and so on. Take full advantage of the ability to get “views from the air”!)

  1. Read The Complete Guide to Renting an RV.

The first five tips above are only a sampling of the useful information you’ll find in our little book, The Complete Guide to Renting an RV. We wrote this book not to earn a ton of money (which we certainly don’t) but to help you more easily plan your RV rental vacation. The book will help you choose the RV that’s best for you (Class A? Class C?), find campgrounds or parks that best suit your idea of a great vacation, and plan an RV-friendly itinerary. You’ll also find tips on what to pack, how to drive an RV, and how to dump the sewage tanks and still end up smelling like a rose!

Click here to order

The book is available in both Kindle and print versions exclusively on Amazon, and if you’re a Prime member, you can download it for free. And would you do us a special favor? After your vacation, please go back on Amazon and leave a review of the book and how it helped you. Most people decide whether or not to buy a book based on what other reviewers say about it. If you found our book helpful, you can help others plan a better RV vacation by letting them know.

Please leave your comments and questions, as well as your own favorite tips below, and we’ll see you on the road! Happy RVing!

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Five Great Gift Ideas for People who RV

Here are five great gift ideas, for Christmas or otherwise, that can make RV travels easier, safer, and more fun! We have and love them all.

For the sake of ease, we are listing these from least to most expensive.

3-Chamber Soap and Shower Dispenser (about $20)

Three Chamber Soap Dispenser

Driving in an RV is like putting your house through an earthquake. Everything that’s loose is going to fly—and there are plenty of loose things in a bathroom! What’s more, most RV showers are quite small, with little or no safe storage space for bottles of shampoo, conditioner, or soap. Our solution is this 3-chamber soap and shower dispenser securely mounted to the shower wall with command strips (included). Just like that we have three fewer things to put away before hitting the road, plus we avoid those unsightly bottles and dirty soap bars littering the shower floor.

Better Living Products 76354 Euro Series TRIO 3-Chamber Soap and Shower Dispenser,

Propane Tee Hookup Kit (about $75)

Camco Propane Tee Adapter

One of the great benefits of traveling in an RV is enjoying the great outdoors, and one of our favorite ways to do that is by grilling and eating outside. Most RVers don’t carry charcoal grills because they are bulky, messy, and even dangerous if the coals aren’t completely extinguished. Portable gas grills are the way to go, but they typically use expensive little canisters that always seem to run out at the worst moments.

There is a better way!

Most RVs have a built-in propane tank for running the stove, heat, and refrigerator. You can hook right into the RV’s propane with this Camco Propane Brass Tee, which is T-shaped and easily screws on between your RV propane tank and your grill regulator—no special tools required. Now you can use the propane supply you’re already carrying to power your grill.

But wait. There’s more!

Imagine you are camping and run out of propane. (It happens!) You could break camp, batten down everything in the motorhome, and drive somewhere to refill the built-in tank. But instead, picture just attaching your “emergency” 20-pound tank of propane (the kind you use for your grill at home) to the Tee fitting and powering your rig with that spare propane until you can get the RV’s propane tank refilled.

A popular brand of this propane adapter is called Stay-a-While, but we found one made by Camco that’s less expensive and works just as well.

Propane Tank “Tee” Hookup Kit with two hoses—

NuWave Induction Cooktop and Skillet (about $90)

Nuwave Induction Cooktop

Let’s face it, cooking on an RV gas range can be a challenge. The flames can be difficult to regulate, there’s not much room, and you’re consuming your valuable propane. Whenever we have electric hookups, we keep the gas range covered to give us more counter space and cook with our NuWave induction cooktop. We haven’t yet but could easily run an extension cord and use it outside, too. Induction cooking is faster and more even than cooking with propane, and since you’re already paying for electricity at your campsite, why not use it!

You may have heard that induction cooktops require special pans, and that’s true, but it’s not a big deal. An induction cooktop heats your pan with a magnetic field, and this means that the bottom of your cookware must be iron or steel. If a magnet sticks to it, it will work. The skillet that comes with this cooktop is well-made, versatile, nonstick, and easy to clean. We use the NuWave skillet plus a saucepan from home.

We like the NuWave for several reasons:

  • You can set the cooktop to a specific temperature. It’s easy to make small adjustments until the heat is just right for what you are cooking.
  • You can easily adjust the amount of power it uses, which is especially helpful when you’re running other appliances in the RV and don’t want to flip a breaker.
  • It is light, more compact than many others, and easy to store, plus there’s a carrying case available if you want one.

NuWave 30242 PIC Gold Precision Induction Cooktop with 10.5″ Fry Pan –

Deik 2 in 1 Cordless Vacuum Cleaner (about $110)

Deik Cordless Vacuum

One of the few downsides of living in the great outdoors is bringing the outdoors indoors on your shoes (or your pet’s feet). And since RVs are such small living spaces, a little dirt can make a big mess in almost no time at all.

Listen, there’s nothing particularly romantic about vacuum cleaners, but a good one can make your camping experience much more pleasant, which is why we think this is a great item for your gift list.

We like the Deik 2 in 1 Cordless Vacuum for several reasons:

  • It’s light—significantly lighter than similar vacuums we tested—and compact.
  • It’s battery-powered (and rechargeable) so you aren’t dragging a cord around with you when you vacuum.
  • It has plenty of suction power and does a great job with pet hair—particularly important to us since we travel with three dogs and a cat.
  • It has a HEPA filter, so it won’t spread allergens around the RV.
  • It can be used either as a stick or hand-held vacuum, and comes with three attachments.
  • The battery is strong enough to clean our entire 37-foot RV.
  • It’s less than half the price of the famous brand you see advertised on TV.

Deik 2 in 1 Cordless Vacuum Cleaner—

EEZTire Tire Pressure Monitoring System ($270 and up, depending on how many tires you want to monitor)

EezTire Tire Pressure Monitor

It might sound a little crazy to pay hundreds of dollars for a tire-pressure monitoring system, but this RV accessory is all about safety and more than paid for itself the very first time we used it.

Getting a flat tire in a motorhome is no joke.

Literally days after we installed the EEZTire system on our motorhome and tow vehicle, we were driving across Pennsylvania Jersey when the monitor started sounding an audible alarm. A quick check of the monitor mounted on our dashboard showed that the right front tire on our RV was losing air. By the time we found a place to pull over, the tire had gone from 85 to 25 pounds of pressure—yet it still felt just fine while driving. It turned out that the valve stem on that tire had failed, and if we had kept driving, we could have experienced a catastrophic blowout at highway speeds! We thank God that didn’t happen, and Jeff is glad that Kathy convinced him to install the tire pressure monitoring system sooner rather than later.

Our RV has six tires, and we mounted monitors on the two front tires and the two rear outside tires. We also decided to put monitors on our four car tires so we can make sure they’re okay while towing. The monitoring screen can be moved to your car for day trips if you’d like. Better safe than sorry.

EEZTire Tire Pressure Monitoring System—

Would you like to know more about any of these gifts? Do you have other gift ideas you’d like to add? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.

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Sun, Rain, and Falling Water—Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania 

Looking for an ideal place for camping, biking, hiking, kayaking, or just wandering through quaint little shops in a village nestled in the mountains? We discovered such a place a few weeks ago, just an hour-and-a-half southeast of Pittsburgh: Ohiopyle State Park.

Strange name, right? The name Ohiopyle derives from the word ohiopehha, meaning “white, frothy river”—a good description of the Youghiogheny River as it passes through the 19,052 acres of forested park in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. We enjoyed several gorgeous autumn days in this park, and would recommend it to everyone who loves mountains, rivers, and fresh country air.

We drove to western PA in our 2004 Fleetwood Southwind RV, towing our new Jeep (not our VW). Why a new Jeep and not a VW? Thanks for asking.

A New “Toad” for our RV

Yep. It’s Kathy’s car!

After the debacle of trying to tow our VW Jetta Wagon on a lightly used tow dolly we had purchased (for the near-disastrous results, check out our Vlog “If Anything Can Go Wrong…”), we bit the bullet and purchased a new Jeep Cherokee Latitude Active Drive 2 (essential for four-down towing, which means all four wheels on the road rather than just the two rear wheels). We then had the Jeep outfitted with a Blue Ox towing system, which is an impressive set-up of tow bars, hitches, wiring, safety chains, and a gizmo that activates the car’s brakes when you hit the brakes in your RV.

After connecting the Jeep to the tow bars mounted on the RV, we have to disengage its transmission (a process involving 19 simple but essential steps that must be done in the correct order). If all is done correctly, we’re ready to tow and go. The towing itself is pretty easy, as the car just follows the RV. If the RV makes a turn without a problem, so will the Jeep. Backing up is another story . . .

If you want to tow a car (called a “toad” because it’s towed, yeah), it’s not quite as simple as hooking it up and heading off. Some cars can only be towed four-down, others only two-down on a tow dolly, and the rest not at all. You need to check each vehicle’s manual, and double-check with the dealer, to make sure you have the right car for your needs.

Flat Towing vs. Car Dolly

Most tow dollies are cheaper than tow-bar systems, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

You’ll need room to store your tow dolly on your campsite. It can usually be tucked in under the front or back of an RV and be mostly out of the way. It’s heavy enough that you don’t want to have to maneuver it too far, however. And a dolly adds to the weight you are already pulling.

A towing system is twice as expensive. Your car needs to be positioned correctly in order to attach and detach the tow bars. And you have to disengage your transmission correctly, according to the manual’s directions. But when not in use, the tow bar folds up right on your RV and is out of the way.

Both work, so it depends on the car you already have, or how much you want to (or can) spend to get ready to tow. There’s usually no right or wrong, just what best suits your needs. Of course for us, the tow dolly was wrong.


Tucker & Mitzi
Wearing their seat belts, of course!

Anyway, on a bright October morning, we headed west on Interstate 80 through the Delaware Water Gap and across the beautiful state of Pennsylvania (our home state, so we’re a bit prejudiced), its mountains aglow with the colors of autumn. “We” in this case was the two of us, plus our three dogs (Tucker, Mitzi, and Oliver) and our cat (Cali). The pets have all adjusted well to RV life, the dogs buckled up in safety harnesses and the cat in her crate when on the road.

Our trip was about 8 hours, or 260 miles. (It was supposed to be shorter, but for some reasons, our GPS detoured us through the hills—and we mean lots of hills—of Maryland.) An 11-ton RV towing a 2-ton car uses a lot of gas (we get 7-8 miles per gallon).

When our gas tank was getting low, Kathy used the iExit app and found a truck stop ahead, where we hoped to (1) get gas, and (2) take a short break to get coffee and walk the dogs. Not as easy as it sounds! The pumps were all diesel (we take regular), and all the truck parking spaces required us to back in (which is difficult to impossible when towing a car). So we drove around the building to what we assumed would be the exit, but it wasn’t! Instead, our way out was blocked by a heavy chain suspended between two cement posts. The trucks exited the same way they entered after fueling up, but since we bypassed the pumps, we were stuck, with no way to turn around without unhooking the car and doing an eight-point or more turn.

While Jeff held his breath (but kept taking video for our YouTube channel—see above), Kathy found an employee and explained our dilemma. Much to our relief, he readily unhooked the chain, as he’s done for other RVs, so that we could make our escape and fuel up elsewhere. Lesson learned. From now on, we’ll also check Gas Buddy to see if the truck stop has regular gas as well as diesel.

By the way, many gas stations cannot accommodate an RV because of the position of their pumps and the amount of space available to enter and exit. Google Earth can sometimes help us see if a gas station will be accessible for our 37-foot Class A motorhome.

Ohiopyle and the Yuk!

When we finally arrived at the park, we were delighted to see that our campsite was large, level, and shaded by an array of colorful trees. Awesome! The park has a new welcome center overlooking one of the waterfalls on the Youghiogheny (pronounced Yuck-a-gain-ee, and locally referred to as the “Yuck” or “Yuk”). Our plan was to do some biking, but it was impossible to resist the urge to walk through the tiny but quaint town of Ohiopyle, enjoy some iced coffee, and just sit and watch the river for a while.

Eventually we headed out on the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile groomed “rail trail” connecting Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. We love riding on rail trails (former railroad beds turned into biking and hiking paths) both for the amazing scenery and the fact that you rarely have to ascend more than a 2% grade! We rode only a few of the 150 miles before heading back to town.

Cali taking a break on the dashboard

The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain on the roof of our motorhome. Kathy actually woke up several times during the night because the rain was so heavy and LOUD. Jeff, with his hearing aids on the shelf beside the bed, slept soundly through it all.


A rainy day isn’t great for outdoor activities, but a short drive away was Fallingwater, one of the famous houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built as a weekend home for the wealthy Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh in 1935, this architectural wonder of concrete and steel extends over a waterfall on Bear Run Creek. Eventually donated to the state, guided tours run year-round, and it’s definitely worth your time to visit, even on a rainy day. (Ironic that we visited Fallingwater on a day when water was falling from the sky, right?) The place is well run, and if it rains, they even supply umbrellas!


Jeff and Ron.
Clearly neither one has aged a bit!

We wished we could have stayed in Ohiopyle longer, but we had to batten down the hatches, hook up the Jeep, and head northwest to Jeff’s alma mater, Geneva College, for homecoming weekend and a reunion of the “Eight Bells.” The Eight Bells is a barbershop double-quartet Jeff sang with in college (and it’s still going strong 38 years later). Highlights of the weekend included spending time with Jeff’s college roommate Ron and his wife, Robyn, watching the Golden Tornadoes win an exciting football game, and a concert featuring current and past members of Eight Bells. Jeff was thrilled to be able to perform a few numbers with fellow Eight Bells members over the years—a great walk down memory lane!

This trip was a good opportunity to hone our RV skills, practice shooting some videos, and take a break from all the chores at our lake house. We had a ball, and it won’t be long until we set out for our long trip to Florida, Texas, and beyond during New Jersey’s cold winter months. We hope you’ll follow along,

And please, be sure to post your questions and comments below!

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We’re Having a Party – And You’re Invited!

We love following the stories of other families that RV, and one of our favorites is “Everyday Family Adventure,” with Trent & Siobhán. These new friends are Christian musicians who are traveling the country with their FIVE BOYS in an RV!

Well, the big news is that Trent & Siobhán (and family) are coming to visit us here at Lake Shawnee, and we’re hosting a “house concert” with them at the Lake Shawnee Clubhouse, Thursday, November 9. We’ll start serving desserts about 7:00 pm, and the concert will begin at 7:30 pm.

Come enjoy some great music, yummy desserts, and meet an amazing family. The address for the party is 4 West Shawnee Trail, Wharton, NJ 07885. And bring a friend! Everyone is welcome.

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Flat Tires, Heat Exhaustion, Broken Bumpers, and Music at Walmart

THE MOVE – Part 3
Flat Tires, Heat Exhaustion, Broken Bumpers, and Music at Walmart

It sounded simple. Park the RV in the driveway and live in it while cleaning out the house, then put the car on the new tow dolly and drive the RV to our storage facility in North Jersey. Once again, we prove that if anything can go wrong, it will. But at the end of the day, God gave us a small reminder of why we are doing this in the first place!

Have any thoughts or questions about the video? Please leave them in the comments below. We’re eager to hear from you!

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Downsizing and the Incredible Lightness of Being

It’s autumn already! We’ve been busy this summer settling into our house on Lake Shawnee in North Jersey. Our days were filled with unpacking, arranging and rearranging furniture, and discovering repairs that were needed on both our house and RV. But the hardest part was behind us. Here’s what was happening in June!


We were moving from a four-bedroom house with a full attic and basement, plus a two-car garage, to a 950-square-foot cottage and a 37-foot RV. Radical downsizing was essential!

So day by day, room by room, and drawer by drawer the two of us (mostly Kathy because Jeff was still working fulltime at our church) sorted through the accumulated stuff from 20 years of marriage and raising three kids. We found things we didn’t even remember we had: treasures from our childhoods, vacation souvenirs, special gifts and cards our kids had made for us over the years. We also found lots of things that we didn’t know quite why we had saved (because we really liked it, because the kids might need it someday, because we might need it someday—probably the day after we get rid of it, because we couldn’t decide what to do with it).

As we handled each item, we asked ourselves several questions, ranging from the esoteric to the practical:

  • Does this bring you joy?
  • If you haven’t missed this until now, will you miss it in the future?
  • Is this the right size and style of furniture for our small lake house?
  • Will we need this for our RV?
  • Does this clothing still fit? If you haven’t worn it for two years, what makes you think you’ll ever wear it again?
  • How many of these shoes/dishes/tools should we keep? Which ones?

What an overwhelming job!

We found encouragement and practical advice from the excellent book The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, by Joshua Becker. He’s a minimalist who believes that getting rid of our excess stuff can free us to enjoy what matters most in life. He also happens to be a Christian who draws from the teachings of Jesus for his personal motivation. But he’s not preachy at all, and he gives his readers ample permission to ignore the Jesus stuff if they want. (If you buy the book using the link above, we will receive a small commission from Amazon. Your price stays the same.)

Click image for to buy or get a free sample


We also decided that it wasn’t worth the time and effort it took to sell things on eBay or Craigslist or in a yard sale. We sometimes had no idea how much an item was even worth. So we decided to have an estate sale, to hire professionals to handle all the stuff we didn’t want to keep but didn’t know how to sell. By the middle of June, we moved everything we wanted to keep up to our lake house, into our RV (where we would live for the next two weeks, parked in our driveway), and into a small storage unit. The rest remained for our estate sale.

We interviewed agents from two companies, and easily chose the company that seemed the most savvy and had an appreciation for our possessions. After we moved out of the house, the two estate-sale ladies swooped into the house and began to appraise, move, and organize all our remaining stuff. It was somewhat disconcerting to walk into the house and see our belongings displayed on folding tables and pieces of furniture where they had always been, but were about to be no-longer-ours.

Ready for sale

Toys, books, and clothing ready to sell

“I’ve come to realize that we don’t really own anything,” Jeff observed. “Sooner or later everything will break, wear out, go out of style, get lost, get sold, or be left behind for someone else to worry about when we die. We think we are buying things, but we’re actually renting them.” Our rental periods were up, and it was time to pass along our stuff to people who wanted or needed it more. From Kathy’s grandmother’s beautiful sterling silverware to Jeff’s smoker to boxes of kitchen gadgets, these were the things we’d either inherited or spent our hard-earned money to buy. but it was time to sell them, let them go, and hold on to the memories alone. We had used and enjoyed them, and now it was time to pass them on to others to use and enjoy.

We made ourselves scarce during the two-day estate sale. We figured it would be too hard, too weird, to watch people buying our stuff and taking it away. The sale was successful at selling our large-ticket items to dealers or individuals—a big relief—and we were handed a nice check that was certainly far more than we would have made trying to sell everything by ourselves, even at the standard 25% commission.

Unfortunately, we still had a LOT of stuff unsold! The fine china we inherited from our parents? Nobody wanted it! Our furniture? Virtually untouched. Computers, printers, books? Still sitting in their places. Baby-boomers, take note: The “valuables” you’re keeping in the attic that you hope you’ll sell someday for a lot of money? Nobody wants them!


The next day, Sunday, Jeff announced at all three services at our church that everyone was invited come to the house and take whatever they wanted or needed. If someone wanted to make a donation, they could, but as far as we were concerned, everything in the house was free!

It’s hard to put into words what a joy it was to see our church family and friends being blessed as they carried home everything from books to furniture that we no longer needed but would now be useful to them. Many of the folks at church are first-generation immigrants from Latin America who barely have enough money to pay the rent and feed their families. Most wanted to know how much things cost, and we’d explain that it cost whatever they wanted to pay.

We watched as one young couple look at our sofa again and again, then asked “how much?” They explained that they didn’t have much money to furnish their apartment, and their living room was virtually empty. They couldn’t believe that they could have our sofa for free! They actually gave us $20 and hauled the sofa away, with big smiles on their faces and tears of joy in our eyes.

One teenage boy asked how much we wanted for a desktop computer, monitor, and a bunch of computer games. “How about $20 for all of it?” Jeff suggested. He ran off and retrieved his father, who said with a smile, “I was hoping you would say $100. If it’s only $20, he can afford it!”

Ok, it’s safe to say this lady didn’t need this, but it certainly made her happy!

By the end of the day, ALL our furniture except for a couple of computer desks was gone. Computers, toys, plates and cookware—gone. It was amazing to be able to share our belongings with our church friends. It’s all God’s anyway. We were just passing it along.

We received some $600 in donations that day. And we didn’t have to pay a clean-out service to haul our stuff away (and probably dump still-half-way-decent furniture into a landfill). We get to know that our “brothers and sisters in Christ” are now enjoying them. We also received one of the greatest rewards: the joy of giving.

Much of what was STILL left, we donated to our church for yard sales that would raise money for mission trips—boxes and boxes and more boxes of stuff, now our trash but soon to be some else’s treasure. Occasionally through this whole process of several weeks, we (usually Kathy, the more sentimental of us) would “rescue” an item that she decided we could still use or that had sentimental value that no one else could appreciate.

Even so, we still had stuff left—and by now it was feeling a lot more like junk. Over the next week or so we were able to hire a few guys from church to haul the rest away.

Letting go. It was time.

Have any thoughts or questions about downsizing? Please leave them in the comments below!

COMING NEXT: We drive away from Dunellen to our new life. And we demonstrate once again the importance of remembering that whatever can go wrong, will!

©2017 by Jeffrey & Kathleen Wildrick

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Bringing our RV Home for the First Time!

They told us to anticipate problems with our RV. Little did we know that the first major (and dangerous) problem would happen less than five minutes after we left the lot! It’s hard to smile when you have to turn around and go right back to the shop.

This video takes place in April, 2017. It’s been a busy spring for us, so over the next few weeks we will be catching up by uploading a new video about once a week.

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Choosing an Extended Warranty for a Used RV

First, a fun video about inspecting our “new to us” RV for an extended warranty. After the video you can find everything you wanted to know about the what, where, why, and how much in our blog!

One of the more challenging decisions we’ve faced after purchasing a used RV is whether to purchase an “Extended Warranty” to help cover any upcoming repairs to the coach.

We bought a thirteen-year-old RV. It may have only 7,000 miles, but it was still used for vacationing. After a few trips, it seems the former owners simply parked it in a seasonal campsite near the shore and enjoyed it as a summer vacation home. That means 13 years of use for the furnace, air conditioners, refrigerator, plumbing system, electrical system, and all other mechanical parts such as slides and jacks.

So, what are some repair costs we might be facing? Let’s consider the refrigerator. RVs have highly specialized refrigerators that can run on both electric and propane, and switch automatically between the two cooling systems depending on what’s available at the time. A quick check at Camping World shows that the replacement cost for our four-door refrigerator with icemaker is $3,700 – on sale! And that doesn’t include installation.

And what are the odds that we’ll have to make expensive repairs sometime in the next few years? Almost 100%. Imagine what life is like for appliances, electronics, plumbing, etc. in a motorhome, bouncing down the highway at 55 miles an hour or down pot-holed back roads in search of the perfect wilderness campsite. Try picking up your water heater and shaking it around for a few hours and see how well it holds up!

Also, consider that RV plumbing systems are, of necessity, made of flexible rubber and plastic. Even without use, gaskets and glue will dry out and connections will loosen. Imagine a fitting bursting open and the floor of the motorhome covered in an inch of water.

Bottom line: There are thousands of things that can go wrong with anything from the engine to the air conditioner, and all of them are much more expensive to repair or replace because they are in an RV.

So, we began research on RV Extended Warranties.


The first thing to realize is that “Extended Warranties” are not true warranties at all. They are insurance policies, and as is true with all insurance policies, most people will never get back as much as they ultimately pay in premiums. Insurance is all about shared risk. To oversimply, your premiums go into a large pool along with every other insured, and everyone’s claims are paid out of the same pool. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. They research how much they’ll have to pay in claims, on average, from a large pool of insureds. Then they set everyone’s premiums high enough to be sure that that pool of money is always larger than the most they expect to pay in claims. Whatever is left over at the end of the year is their profit.

Some people will have claims for repair that are much, much higher than they ever paid in premiums. Most people will spend more on premiums than they would have on repairs. So, most people lose money by buying insurance, but they will know that there is a limit to their overall risk. That helps with both peace of mind and budgeting. And if they don’t buy RV insurance, and they end up with some huge repair bills – well, let’s just say that we don’t want to be in that group!


  1. What’s Covered – and What’s Not

When considering an extended warranty, it’s important to read the fine print and be sure that you know exactly what is and is not covered, and under what circumstances.

Some companies offer what are called “Inclusionary Policies,” which means that your contract will give a detailed (sometimes excruciatingly detailed) list of anything and everything that they will pay for if it breaks or stops working. Other companies have “Exclusionary Policies” that list what is not covered. Some policies are a hybrid of the two. The benefit of an exclusionary policy is simple: If it’s not listed, it’s covered. On the other hand, an inclusionary policy may cover the left-widget, but not the expensive gizmo that you need to make the left-widget work. And since insurance companies make money by not paying claims, you can be sure that the cost of the gizmo and the labor to install it is coming out of your pocket.

Some policies cover only the basic systems of the RV, while others cover or charge extra for “luxury” items such as icemakers, TVs, motorized awnings, etc. Know what you have, and know what’s covered.

Another factor to consider is how or whether the policy covers “consequential damages.” Consequential damages are those caused to one part of the RV because a different part failed. Some policies will not pay for consequential damage. For instance, if your uncovered fan belt fails, causing your covered engine to seize, that covered engine is not covered in this circumstance because its damage is caused by the excluded fan belt. Not good for you!

It gets even trickier. Some companies define “consequential damage” as damage to a covered part by the failure of an uncovered part (as above). But others define “consequential damage” as damage to an uncovered part because of the failure of a covered. This makes it almost impossible to make a side-by-side comparison.

2. Rules and Restrictions for Service

Understandably, warranty companies don’t want to pay for unnecessary or excessive repairs. And, unfortunately, all too many people try to pad their claims so that they’ll “get their money’s worth” out of their warranty. So, ALL warranty companies have very specific processes and procedures that you MUST follow before getting any repair work done. If you don’t follow their requirements TO THE LETTER, they will certainly deny your claim.


Most policies require that you get a detailed estimate, and then have that estimate pre-approved by the warranty company before any work is done. Anything done before you receive approval will not be covered. Anything done that’s not included in the approved estimate will not be covered. If the mechanic discovers more problems that need to be fixed, the additional work must be submitted and pre-approved.

Some policies may require you to have repairs done by one of their own approved facilities. Others will work with any certified mechanic, and even mobile mechanics who will come to you.

Internet forums are full of complaints about warranty companies refusing to pay for necessary repairs to RVs. If you dig a little deeper the story is almost always the same: The owner was in a hurry and couldn’t reach the warranty company because it was a weekend, or a holiday, or they had to get back on the road right away to reach their destination so they went ahead and got the repair that was “obviously” needed, then screamed when the warranty company refused to pay. With an extended warranty, you will have to make a choice between waiting a few days for the pre-approval process and getting paid for your claim, or getting it fixed right away so you can continue with your vacation—and paying for that repair out of your own pocket, which really defeats the purpose of having a warranty.

3. Cost

The cost of extended warranties is influenced by a multitude of factors including the age, mileage, and value of your RV; the size of your deductible (the amount you pay before insurance kicks in); the length of the warranty; the exclusions and inclusions; and the amount of time you spend in your motorhome each year.

All companies offer varied levels of coverage. Some look inexpensive until you realize that they charge extra if you spend more than a certain number of weeks on the road each year, or want consequential damage coverage.

A good question to ask yourself is: “What’s the maximum amount I can (or I’m willing to) pay out-of-pocket for an unexpected repair?” The higher the deductible, the less expensive the policy will be. Choose a deductible based on what you’re best able to afford.

Be aware that different policies base their deductibles on different criteria. Some charge your deductible “per visit” to a repair center, so your total deductible will be the same whether you have one or ten items repaired while you’re there. Others charge separate deductibles per incident, so don’t get other problems fixed while you’re having your insured repair done or you’ll pay a deductible on each repair.

4. Reputation

A warranty is only as good as the company that issues it, and I’m sad to say that I’ve encountered far-too-many stories of people who were sold extended warranties and submitted claims, only to learn that the company has a policy of repeatedly denying claims in the hope that you will give up and go away. Even worse, in some cases people have learned that their warranty company has gone bankrupt or out of business. For that reason we only considered warranties from companies with good financial ratings and a long track record in the business.


We received proposals from three different warranty companies: Good Sam, Coachnet, and Wholesale Warranties.

Good Sam offered us a one-year policy for $1,438 with a $500 deductible. We quickly eliminated them from consideration because of the length of coverage, overall reputation, and the fact that this was an inclusionary policy.

Coachnet offered a basic five-year policy for $4,744 with a $200 deductible. After adding in special riders for “luxury” items, permanent residence (Using the RV more than a couple of months a year), and consequential damage, the premium came to $5,562. Coachnet has a good reputation, especially for their roadside service, but we were unhappy with their definition of consequential damage (payment for failure of an uncovered part if it is caused by a covered part).

We chose to purchase a policy from Wholesale Warranties. They offered us a three-year, 30,000 mile exclusionary policy for $4,293 with a $200 deductible. The policy covers permanent residence and consequential damage defined as “the repair of a Covered Part if the failure of the Covered Part was caused by the action or inaction of a non-covered part,” which makes the most sense to us. There is no surcharge for “luxury” items such as our washer/dryer. They have a very good reputation and were remarkably thorough in making sure that the policy is tailored to our needs and that we fully understand what is and isn’t covered.

We decided that the coverage from Wholesale Warranties makes the best sense for us. Besides the excellent coverage, this is our first RV, and it is a 2004. We are buying peace of mind as part of the warranty. There’s also a chance that we might not want to RV for more than three years, or that if we do, we might want to trade in our motorhome for something different. If we love our RV and RVing, we can keep our Fleetwood Southwind 37A or downsize to a trailer or who knows what. If we sell before the three years are over, the warranty is transferrable to a new owner. For all these reasons, we chose the three-year policy with Wholesale Warranties. We hope it’s a good choice!

Since we are buying coverage for a used RV, Wholesale Warranties arranged for an independent mechanic to do a thorough inspection of our motorhome before our coverage begins. The benefit to them is that they will not have to pay claims for anything that is already broken. The benefit to us is that we will not be denied coverage for any component that passes inspection, as long as we keep a record of all necessary maintenance (such as oil changes) from this date forward.

Our motorhome inspection was done by Fred Sumner of Vehicle Appraisal Services in Camden, Delaware ( A former aircraft mechanic, he couldn’t have been more thorough or helpful. Fred opened every hatch, drawer, cabinet, and cubby in the entire RV, turned every appliance off and on, rode along on a test-drive, and took hundreds of pictures during his inspection. He found a couple of minor problems which we reported to the dealer to be taken care of before we take delivery next week. If you’re thinking of buying a used RV and you live near Delaware, whether or not you’re buying an extended warranty, I highly recommend that you hire Fred to do the same kind of inspection before you write the big check and take your rig home.

If you’ve read this far you must be REALLY interested in extended warranties for RVs. If you’re in the market, please contact with this link to see if their product is right for you. If you mention us by name, we’ll get a small “thank you” gift from the company.

We’d like to get your feedback and answer your questions in the comments below. If you’d like to learn more about our journey, please subscribe!

And remember – Life’s a journey. Make every mile count!

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It’s really, truly ours

Wow! The paperwork seems to have taken forever.

First we had to wait for the sellers to get a loan to pay off their debt on the motorhome.

Then the weather keep canceling our trips down to pick up the title.

Then, the title got lost in the mail — well, more accurately, in our mailbox!

But today all of the pieces came together, so Kathy and I headed down to the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission, paid our registration, paid our sales tax, and are truly, officially, happily the owners of our 2004 Fleetwood Southwind 37A!


Next steps: Get the tires installed. Get the extended warranty. Drive it home!


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